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Innovation and Modernization in FY 2017

CENSUS Directors Blog - Thu, 02/25/2016 - 13:30

Written by: John H. Thompson

The mission of the U.S. Census Bureau is to serve as the leading source of quality data about the Nation’s people and economy.  To accomplish this mission, we’re continually innovating ways to modernize our data collection methods and disseminating activities for the 21st century.

FY 2017 is a critical year for innovation at the Census Bureau. One of our major priorities is our commitment to cost containment while maintaining data quality. Our plans for the 2020 Census reflect this goal – it will be the most automated, modern, and dynamic decennial census in history, with sweeping design changes in four key areas. We designed the 2020 Census to cost less per housing unit than the 2010 Census (adjusted for inflation), while maintaining the highest standards of accuracy in counting all individuals once, only once, and in the right place.

We’re also working to contain costs by revamping technology that underpins our work. We’re rethinking the way we collect and process data – including expanding our internet and mobile data collection. These advances will consolidate costs, streamline our work, and reduce the burden on individuals and businesses who respond to all our censuses and surveys.

Another major area of innovation is in unlocking the potential of our data. Businesses, policy makers, and the American public rely on our economic statistics to make data-driven decisions, and in FY 2017, we aim to meet their demands for more accurate, timely and granular data. We’ll deliver a full suite of enhanced macroeconomic indicators to drive decisions on investments, economic growth and job creation. By accelerating and enhancing a substantial number of key economic indicators, we can cumulatively lead to a more precise measure of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In addition, we’re harnessing the potential of “Big Data” to create new data products and expand our existing products to transform how Americans can find, connect, and use these improved economic data.

Finally, we’re thinking outside the box to tackle some long-standing challenges. For example, we’re using aerial imagery to detect areas where addresses have changed in the U.S. – part of the geographic foundation for nearly every economic and social data product that the Census Bureau produces. We’re also researching new ways to balance the nation’s need for detailed social, economic and housing information with the need to minimize the burden of people who respond to our surveys. Innovation in survey design and data collection can help us reduce that burden while still providing communities and businesses with the data they need to make informed choices.

To learn more about how the Census Bureau plans to innovate and modernize to meet that challenge and fulfill our mission, check out the infographic below.

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New Features for My Congressional District Expand Access to U.S. Census Bureau Data

CENSUS Directors Blog - Thu, 02/18/2016 - 12:45

Written by: John H. Thompson

As the nation’s premiere source of data about America’s economy, businesses and people,  we’re committed to making our data more accessible than ever before through new tools and data sets.  We are always listening to you for ways to improve access to our statistics.

In response to customer feedback, I am pleased to announce that latest phase of our digital transformation. For the first time, our County Business Patterns statistics are available by congressional district and to highlight them, we are making them available through a new update of our popular interactive Web app, My Congressional District. Now – in addition to demographic, socioeconomic and housing data – you can access business data at the congressional district level all in one place.

Whether you’re a constituent, working in a congressional office, or just interested in the data, My Congressional District allows you to easily access both economic and demographic data by Congressional district in an easy-to-use app.

In addition to the American Community Survey statistics on demography, socioeconomics, housing and other topics already available through My Congressional District, County Business Patterns provides annual statistics on establishments, employment and payroll for businesses with paid employees at a detailed industry level. These data give users information about the breadth of business activity within a district and its effects.

My Congressional District is one of a suite of Web tools that are accessible through the Census API, and is part of the Census Bureau’s effort to expand access to our data through new tools and technologies. Our digital transformation aims to help our almost 50 million annual visitors more easily find the information they want, expose our audience to new data sets, and increase statistical literacy.

As with all Census Bureau tools, statistics from My Congressional District are easy to download and share on social media. You can also embed the interactive Web app on your own website. Whether you access My Congressional District as an embedded Web app or through Census.gov, you’ll always get the most up-to-date statistics available.

I hope you enjoy learning more about your congressional district and the communities you care about through our statistics. We’re always looking for ways to make our tools more useful, and I encourage you to submit your feedback through the “Tell us what you think” link. If you like My Congressional District, check out our three mobile apps and other interactive data tools.

Planning for the 2020 Census

CENSUS Directors Blog - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 12:40

Written by: John H. Thompson

As you know, planning for the 2020 Census is underway. We’re already making key decisions about how the next census will be carried out. Our goal is a complete and accurate census — counting everyone once, only once, and in the right place. We’ve been studying cost-saving design innovations for the last three years; now we’re shifting our focus to operationalizing those innovations and ensuring that they will produce a quality census in 2020.

We are on track to do just that. We’ve already conducted extensive research and testing that makes us confident in our current design plan. From 2012 through 2015, we conducted seven census tests across the country to study a wide range of topics — from race and ethnicity questions to automating field operations to Internet response. The results were critical to informing the decisions in our operational plan.

The Census Bureau released the 2020 Census Operational Plan in October — three years earlier than we did before the 2010 Census. This means we have additional time to refine and test all of the systems and innovations we need for a complete and accurate count in 2020. We’ve already started making the decisions laid out in the operating plan — right as scheduled — and we’ll continue to do so. We have 62 key decisions to make in 2016, including finalizing how we will follow up with people who don’t respond to the census.

Releasing the operational plan five years before the 2020 Census also gives us time to communicate our plans and incorporate feedback from experts, Congress, advisory committees and the public in our decision-making process. One way we’re keeping you informed is by webcasting all of our 2020 Census Program Management Reviews so that you can be aware of what decisions we’re making, how we’re making them, and when we are making them. We want to keep everyone apprised of our progress.

One recommendation we’ve received – and acted on – was from the Government Accountability Office, to examine whether any decisions could be made ahead of schedule to reduce risk. At the last program management review on Jan. 29, we announced a decision about how census takers will collect information via Internet-enabled devices, like smartphones. In our early testing, we examined allowing census takers to “bring your own device” (BYOD) and conduct work using their own smartphone and cellular plans. Based on our research from the 2014 and 2015 tests, we found several challenges that made it clear that BYOD wasn’t the best choice for the 2020 Census. Based on this research, we made an early decision to provide equipment to census takers rather than asking them to use their own.

Planning for the 2020 Census is on schedule and right where it should be. I urge you to follow along with our progress at the 2020 Census page.

Improvements to the Release of Economic Indicators Mean You Get Data Faster

CENSUS Directors Blog - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 10:00

Written by: John H. Thompson

Every month, the Census Bureau releases key indicators of America’s economy. These indicators are critical to the analysis of the nation’s current and future economic performance. Businesses in America, and around the world, rely heavily upon them to make decisions every day.

Today, the Census Bureau announced a significant improvement in the way we release these indicators. We’ve reduced the lag between the indicators’ official release and when they are posted to the web to the smallest it’s ever been. As of today, every person in America will have access to the indicators in as little as one second after their release.

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This improvement comes in response to our customers’ requests for more timely access to our data. Because of the indicators’ value, data users such as business owners, researchers, investors, economists and policymakers want access to it as quickly as possible.

Enhancing the accessibility of our data via the web is a key aspect of the Census Bureau’s digital transformation. The new streamlined, automated method allows customers to access economic indicators on census.gov more expeditiously and efficiently by optimizing the process required to post economic indicator data to the Internet.

To view today’s release of economic indicators, click here. You can find more economic indicators from the Census Bureau at www.census.gov/economic-indicators or by downloading the America’s Economy app.

Fore more information about the Census Bureau’s digital transformation and the release of economic indicators, please contact the Public Information Office at pio@census.gov.

The Year in Review

CENSUS Directors Blog - Thu, 12/31/2015 - 11:46

Written by: John H. Thompson

As the year comes to a close, I want to recognize all of the hard work and notable achievements that have taken place at the U.S. Census Bureau over the past year. As the leading source of statistics on our nation’s people, places and economy, we’re always striving to serve our customers better – whether they are responding to a survey or want data about their community. 2015 was no exception.

This year, we conducted over 130 surveys. We published a wealth of statistics and data, including a major release on income, poverty and health insurance in America. We rolled out several exciting tools to make our data easier to use, such as Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition, a new tool aimed at helping entrepreneurs start businesses. We announced new ways to get our data earlier than before, and made some of our existing data sets available for free.

We added three new Federal Statistical Research Data Centers to our data center network, bringing our total to 22. We continued to produce research that is central to our mission, with over 70 research papers and over 100 presentations at a variety of major scientific forums – including the Joint Statistical Meetings, the Population Association of America, the American Association of Geographers, the American Association of Public Opinion Research and the Allied Social Science Association Meetings. And of course, we continued to map out improvements for future censuses and surveys, including the American Community Survey, the 2017 Economic Census and the 2020 Census. In addition to the excellent, ongoing work that the Census Bureau does, I want to highlight some key achievements from 2015:

  • I’m very proud that we released the operational plan for the 2020 Census, the blueprint for a historic census of “firsts.” The 2020 Census will be the most automated and technologically advanced census ever. Innovations in the operational plan will make it easier than ever for people to respond to the census, and will save taxpayers more than $5 billion compared to doing the census the old way. Through the smart use of technology and information, we can automate our data collection and field operations to make the entire census more efficient and accessible.
  • This year we conducted two successful census tests. In Georgia and South Carolina, we explored new outreach and promotion strategies, and learned more about the best ways for people to complete the census quickly and securely over the Internet. In Maricopa County, Arizona, we evaluated new technologies for collecting and processing responses to the census, and tested a new field management structure. This research is critical to making important design decisions for the 2020 Census. We’ll continue our preparations for the 2020 Census with two more tests in 2016 – in Harris County, Texas and Los Angeles County, California.
  • 2015 marked the anniversary of the American Community Survey, which has now provided U.S. communities with detailed information for 10 years. As the nation’s largest ongoing household survey, the ACS produced statistics annually – down to the block group level – for every community in the nation. In December, we released the latest ACS five-year statistics, which allowed users to compare two non-overlapping, five-year data sets for the first time. Users can now identify trends for social and economic characteristics for even the smallest communities on a more frequent basis.
  • We began collecting data for the first Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs as part of a three-year pilot project in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Minority Business Development Agency.  This new survey responds to our customers’ requests for more timely data by providing an updated socio-economic portrait of America’s business owners in the years between the Survey of Business Owners. Data from the 2014 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs – including estimates on firms, receipts, payroll and employment by business owners’ gender, ethnicity, race and veteran status – are tentatively scheduled to be released next summer.
  • Earlier this year we debuted our City Software Development Kit (SDK), a user-friendly “toolbox” for civic hackers to connect local and national public data. Developers asked for an easier way to use the Census API for common tasks, and the SDK is our answer. Currently, we have distributed over 12,030 developer keys. Last month the SDK was named the Federal Government’s 2015 Innovation of the Year by Fed Scoop.
  • In January, 55 Census Bureau employees won Gold and Silver Medal awards from the Secretary of Commerce for distinguished and exceptional service. Throughout the year, employees have continued to win accolades, including the Arthur S. Flemming Award in Applied Science; the Innovation Initiative Excellence Award from AFCEA Bethesda; the Special Achievement in GIS Award from Esri; the Leader of the Year in Enterprise Risk Management from the Association for Federal Enterprise Risk Management; and the Energy and Environmental Stewardship Award from the Department of Commerce.

Thank you to all of the Census Bureau employees whose hard work has paid off so impressively this year. As we look forward to the New Year, 2016 is shaping up to be just as productive. With research and innovation, we’ll continue to provide quality data about America’s people and economy.

On the Road in New Mexico

CENSUS Directors Blog - Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:05

Written by: John H. Thompson

Earlier this month I visited New Mexico to participate in the Census Bureau’s fifth tribal consultation meeting this year. These meetings are a key part of our preparations for the 2020 Census, and I’m grateful to the All Pueblo Council of Governors and the Pueblo of Isleta for hosting and to the attendees who contributed to a thoughtful and productive discussion.

New Mexico is a remarkable state, and I enjoyed meeting its people and learning more about the challenges of counting those who live in rural areas. Here are some photos from my visit to Albuquerque, parts of the Navajo Nation including the To’hajiilee Indian Reservation, Laguna Pueblo and Acoma Pueblo.

For more information about the topics of discussion at the Census Bureau’s meetings with tribes, check out my blog posts on the tribal consultation process and on my trip to Alaska in October. There are more pictures of my trip on Facebook and Instagram.

In the Navajo Nation, I learned about challenges associated with census interviews in Indian Country. I also visited the monument to the Navajo Code Talkers in Window Rock.

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The Canyon de Chelly was a great place to learn about the challenges of enumerating hard-to-count populations. In 2020, our mission will be to count every American in the right place – including those living on the canyon floor.

The landscape of the Laguna Pueblo illustrates some of the challenges of rural enumeration. The pueblo includes the six villages of Encinal, Laguna, Mesita, Paguate, Paraje and Seama, whose combined total population was 3,815 persons in the 2000 Census.

The landscape of the Laguna Pueblo illustrates some of the challenges of rural enumeration. The pueblo includes the six villages of Encinal, Laguna, Mesita, Paguate, Paraje and Seama, whose combined total population was 3,815 persons in the 2000 Census.

I met with Data Dissemination Specialist Amadeo Shije and Field Supervisor Mark Zyniecki to talk about enumeration in Indian Country.

I met with Data Dissemination Specialist Amadeo Shije and Field Supervisor Mark Zyniecki to talk about enumeration in Indian Country.

I met with the Governor of the Pueblo of Acoma, Fred S. Vallo, Sr.

I met with the Governor of the Pueblo of Acoma, Fred S. Vallo, Sr.

This beautiful rock formation is on the Acoma Pueblo. According to the 2010 Census, 4,989 people identified as Acoma.

This beautiful rock formation is on the Acoma Pueblo. According to the 2010 Census, 4,989 people identified as Acoma.

I met with the New Mexico state offices of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rep. Stevan Pierce, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Senator Martin Heinrich, and Sen. Tom Udall to discuss the tribal consultation process and the operating plan for the 2020 Census.

I met with the New Mexico state offices of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rep. Stevan Pierce, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Senator Martin Heinrich, and Sen. Tom Udall to discuss the tribal consultation process and the operating plan for the 2020 Census.

 

Releasing the 2020 Census Operational Plan to Congress and Our Valued Stakeholders

CENSUS Directors Blog - Mon, 11/23/2015 - 15:21

Written by: John H. Thompson

On November 3, I presented the Census Bureau’s operational plan for the 2020 Census – the blueprint by which we’ll conduct the next census – to Congress and the public. I was excited to tell the House Subcommittees on Government Operations and Information Technology about the depth and strength of our plan. Today, I want to go over some of the highlights from my testimony about the operational plan and our preparations for the 2020 Census.

In 2013, in response to funding constraints, we prioritized the 2020 Census research program. At that point we established the end of Fiscal Year 2015 as a key milestone for releasing the operational plan for the 2020 Census. I was pleased to inform the Subcommittees that we had met that goal, and that our plan is supported by solid research, including the 2014 and 2015 tests.

I was proud to report that in 2020 we will no longer use the paper-and-pencil processes that have characterized each census since 1970. The operational plan lays out four key areas of innovation that will ultimately deliver $5.2 billion in savings to the American taxpayers. The 2020 Census will be the most automated census ever, and we’re developing technologies and systems that will increase the efficiency of administering the once-a-decade headcount. We’re taking full advantage of the opportunity to innovate and using off-the-shelf technological advances from the last 10 years.

The operational plan details our research on the infrastructure that we need to take the census online. Through testing and development, we’ve developed prototype systems that incorporate mobile technology and optimal work assignments. A key component of these efforts is the Census Enterprise Data Collection and Processing (CEDCaP) initiative, a new agency-wide approach to survey and census data collection and processing. We’re simplifying and integrating – moving to a small suite of shared, reusable systems instead of creating duplicative systems for each survey and census. This new, sustainable approach will enable us to conduct a modernized 2020 Census.

I also told the Subcommittees about our plans to manage the risks associated with delivering the most automated census ever, including:

  • Delivering the 2020 operational plan three years earlier than in the 2010 census cycle. Releasing our plans now gives us additional time to communicate our plans and decision making process to Congress and other stakeholders.
  • Making innovative use of existing technology and software. -to-date tools – instead of inventing our own – we can make the best use of technological advances for an accurate and cost-effective census.
  • Developed a working prototype for the census that we successfully tested in 2015. Based on this prototype, we’ve drawn up most of the census’ specifications; we’ll finish this work based on the results of tests in 2016 and 2017.
  • Establishing milestones for an end-to-end test of our systems. In 2018, we’ll hold a critical test of all of the census’ major systems. This end-to-end test will represent the culmination of research and testing, as we implement the planned census operations in real-time.
  • Minimizing risk by making timely decisions. The operational plan shares a number of decisions that we’ve already made in preparation for the 2018 end-to-end test, and lays out a timeline for the remaining decisions that we must make.
  • Recognizing the need for timely decisions on which systems we need to build internally, and which we need to buy from external sources. We’ve engaged the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute to guide us in this area and to ensure that this critical decision making process is successful.

Based on my experience in overseeing the 2000 Census and in the private sector, I am confident that the plan outlined above will lead to a successful implementation of our automation and systems development for 2020. Right now, we are on schedule to deliver a census in 2020 that is both innovative and cost effective – but we’re also at a critical juncture. In order to execute a 2020 Census that reduces costs while maintaining quality, we must receive adequate funding for the entire lifecycle. By investing now, we can save more than $5 billion while ensuring we produce an accurate and cost-effective Census.

I must emphasize again how pleased I was to have the opportunity to update our oversight subcommittees in the House of Representatives, and to tell them that we’re on schedule to deliver a 2020 Census that is that is both innovative and cost effective. By taking a proactive approach in researching and testing modern, groundbreaking methods, we can make the 2020 Census the most cost-effective and automated Census ever.

World Statistics Day 2015: Better Data. Better Lives.

CENSUS Directors Blog - Tue, 10/20/2015 - 10:36

Written by: John H. Thompson

The United Nations General Assembly designated October 20, 2015 as the second-ever World Statistics Day to highlight the many achievements of national statistical systems across the globe. The U.S. government has a long history of collecting data about the nation’s people, places and economy – beginning with the first census in 1790. Today, the Census Bureau and other federal statistical agencies publish the statistics the nation uses to record progress and plan for the future.

In the United States, quality, timely, accessible data is the foundation of good decision-making. Policy makers at every level of government, businesses of all sizes, and individuals across America all depend on statistics to make informed decisions. That’s why the Census Bureau is committed to continually improving our data sources and statistical methods – to enable better decisions that ultimately result in better lives for all of us.WSD_Logo_Final_Languages_Outline

One of the key ways that the Census Bureau meets that commitment is through the innovative use of technology. The advent of modern computing and the Internet have revolutionized the way we collect, process and share data, and we’re making smart use of technology to make future censuses and surveys more efficient. More than 60 of our censuses and surveys now have an online response option, and in 2017, the Economic Census will move to 100% electronic data collection. In 2020, the decennial census is making the leap from pencil and paper to the Internet. Among the many innovations that will be deployed for the 2020 Census, we’re making it easier and more convenient than ever to complete the census by adding an option for online response. We’re also giving mobile devices with special software to census takers – allowing them securely transmit daily assignments, real-time updates, timesheets, and even calculate the best route for that day’s workload.

Innovation and digital technology also let us share our statistics more widely and easily than ever. We’ve made major upgrades to Census.gov to make Census Bureau statistics as accessible as possible to our more than 40 million annual visitors. We’ve created mobile apps and interactive digital tools to expand access to our statistics – most recently we released Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition to help entrepreneurs get access to statistics that can help them start or grow a business. Our API and the City Software Development Kit give developers and entrepreneurs access to our statistics in a format that makes it easy to mash up and consume.

The possible ways to use all of these readily available statistics are endless. Companies like Zillow and Target are able to understand more about the communities and consumers they serve; government agencies can better simulate the spread of infections diseases and prepare for the next potential outbreak; and educators can change the way their students think about math, numbers and life.

Today I encourage you to learn more about the ways that official statistics help people around the world develop informed policies that improve lives. Visit worldstatisticsday.org to learn more about how the national statistical systems in Indonesia, Germany, New Zealand and many other countries are meeting the challenge of Better Data. Better Lives. Happy World Statistics Day!

On the Road in Alaska

CENSUS Directors Blog - Fri, 10/16/2015 - 16:28

Written by: John H. Thompson

Last week I wrote about the series of tribal consultation meetings that the U.S. Census Bureau is holding across the country. These consultations are one aspect of our preparations for the 2020 Census, just like our release of the operational plan last week. This week I am in Anchorage, Alaska to attend the second of the eight consultations, in conjunction with the annual convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives.

This meeting is especially significant because the Remote Alaska enumeration is the first activity that will kick off the 2020 Census. Between January and April 2020, Census enumerators will visit the most sparsely settled, isolated parts of Alaska – areas that are accessible only by small plane, boat, snowmobile, four-wheel drive vehicles, or dog sled. This enumeration starts early in the year in order to reach the people in these remote locations before the spring thaw, when travel to these areas may be even more difficult.

It’s been a fascinating trip. I’ve enjoyed visiting Alaska, meeting new people, listening to the thoughtful discussions at the tribal consultation – and even seeing local artwork by Alaska Native and Native American artists. I’m so grateful to the people of Alaska for their hospitality.

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Director Thompson is in Alaska for the second #2020census tribal consultation. This week he also visited the Alaska Dispatch to discuss plans for the 2020 Census and during his visit at the paper, ran into Senator Murkowski.

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Check out more pictures from the Alaska Native Customary Art Fair. Associate Director Lisa Blumerman and Director Thompson are in town for the #2020Census tribal consultation. #Alaska #AlaskaNative #Art #AmericanIndian

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Director Thompson is in Alaska for the second #2020census tribal consultation. While there he visited the Alaska Native Customary Art Fair. #Alaska #Art #AmericanIndian #AlaskaNative

U.S. Census Bureau Seeks Input from Tribal Leaders for 2020 Census

CENSUS Directors Blog - Wed, 10/07/2015 - 14:07

Written by: John H. Thompson

Today, Census Bureau officials are meeting with representatives from the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes in Minnesota to discuss issues that affect American Indian and Alaska Native communities (AIAN) ahead of the 2020 Census. This is a critical part of our overall communication and outreach efforts directed at ensuring an accurate, cost-effective population count in 2020. I’m excited to collaborate with tribal leaders, and eager to hear their thoughts on how we can better serve their communities.

This is the first of eight tribal consultation meetings, plus a national webinar that all federally recognized tribes will be invited to attend, that the Census Bureau will hold across the country over the next six months. Through these meetings, we hope to meet with representatives from as many of the more than 500 federally recognized tribes as possible. Building awareness about the importance of the 2020 Census is essential in motivating response to the census in communities across our diverse nation, including the AIAN population living both on and off tribal lands. It’s also our responsibility as a government agency, following an Executive Order signed in 2000, that we hold meaningful and accountable consultations with tribes on matters that have significant tribal implications.

Our past collaborations with tribal governments and American Indian organizations have been very productive; I know that AIAN outreach and partnerships can have a big impact from my time overseeing the 2000 Census. We also had great success working with the National Congress of American Indians on the Indian Country Counts campaign during the 2010 Census.

Today’s meeting is the first of many times that we’ll be reaching out to and communicating with the AIAN community ahead of the 2020 Census. We’re keen to build on our government-to-government relationship to receive feedback. Through collaboration, we can make progress in a way that meets the community’s needs, and helps the Census Bureau listen to and use the AIAN population’s input to increase the response rate and accuracy in Indian country. We also want to get information from tribal leaders on topics like outreach and promotion, data collection operations, geography and others.

I’m excited to attend the next tribal consultation on October 14 in Anchorage, Alaska – stay tuned for an update from me about that meeting. I’m confident that by working together, we can make progress in a way that meets the community’s needs, and helps the Census Bureau capture the best possible information about the American Indian and Alaska Native population.

The 2020 Census: The Most Innovative Census in our Nation’s History

CENSUS Directors Blog - Tue, 10/06/2015 - 13:23

Written by: John H. Thompson

Today is a big day in the U.S. Census Bureau’s planning for the 2020 Census – we are unveiling the operational plan for the most innovative and automated census in our nation’s history.

The census occurs every 10 years and is the largest civilian mobilization effort the nation undertakes. It is the very foundation of our democracy and a constitutional requirement. In 2020, we’ll have just a few short months to count what we estimate will be more than 320 million people in this country – counting them only once, and in the right place. It’s a complicated logistical challenge, and we only have one shot at getting it right.

We’re releasing this plan five years prior to the 2020 Census – three years earlier than we released the 2010 plan a decade ago. This lets us thoroughly test each innovation and refine the plan with those results.

Sweeping innovations in the 2020 Census Operational Plan will make it easier than ever for people to respond, and will save taxpayers more than $5 billion compared to doing the census the old way with pencil and paper. In 2020, the census is making the leap to the Internet. The smart use of technology and information will make the 2020 Census more efficient and accessible.

The most sweeping changes for the 2020 Census focus on these four key innovation areas:

  1. Making it easier for people to respond. We’ll encourage the population to respond to the 2020 Census using the Internet, reducing the need for more expensive data capture. This will save an estimated $400 million.
  2. Using existing data to reduce door-to-door visits. We will use data that the public has already provided to the government and data that is available from commercial sources. The savings from this innovation – estimated at $1.4 billion – will allow us to focus additional visits in areas that have been traditionally hard-to-enumerate.
  3. Automating field operations. We’ll use sophisticated operational control systems to send Census enumerators to follow up with non-responding housing units and to track daily progress, saving an estimated $2.5 billion.
  4. Building a more accurate address list. We are adding new addresses to the Census Bureau’s address frame using geographic information systems and aerial imagery, instead of sending Census employees to walk and physically check 11 million census blocks. This will cut our on-the-ground workload 75%, saving an estimated $900 million.

As always, your confidentiality and privacy are important to us. That’s why the plan spells out how we will thoroughly test every component of census operations, piece-by-piece and as a whole.  We’re working with some of the best minds in industry to ensure the success of the census, borrowing best practices from global companies. We’ll use layers of information security protections and protocol to secure the systems we use and the data we collect. All data will be encrypted and safeguarded, and all staff are trained to protect it and sworn to maintain confidentiality, under penalty of imprisonment or fines.

In closing, this will be a historic census, a census of “firsts.” The first that most of us will respond to online. The first to use aerial imagery to verify that our list of addresses for the nation is correct and up-to-date. The first that automates follow-up work for those that do not respond to the census – optimizing assignments, letting census takers know right away which households have already responded, and sending them GPS-based, turn-by-turn directions to follow up with households that have not.

The automations and innovations that we’ll use are truly groundbreaking for collecting statistics, and everyone here at the Census Bureau is excited to roll out these plans for the American public.

To learn more about the 2020 Census operational plan, tune in to our webcast event today at 1pm ET.

Celebrating Manufacturing Day with U.S. Census Bureau Statistics

CENSUS Directors Blog - Thu, 10/01/2015 - 10:58

Written by: John H. Thompson

October 2 is Manufacturing Day, and I’m pleased to participate in this year’s observance by recognizing the major role that manufacturing plays in our national and global economy. Every year, U.S. manufacturers produce nearly $6 trillion in shipments and employ people across the nation. Modern manufacturing is a technology-driven industry that produces innovative ideas and products that are used across the globe.

A major source of statistics on our nation’s manufacturing is the Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM), which provides sample estimates of statistics for manufacturing establishments with one or more paid employees.  Earlier this year, we released statistics from the 2013 ASM for 364 manufacturing industries.  We also released less detailed industry statistics by state in the 2013 ASM.

Mfg1ASM data tell us a lot about American manufacturing. For example, nationally, there were 11.1 million manufacturing employees, annual payroll of $602.9 billion, and value of shipments and receipts for services of $5.8 trillion. The three states with the most manufacturing employees in 2013 were California, Texas and Ohio. California topped the list with 1.1 million manufacturing employees. The data also show that California’s annual payroll for paid employees was $70.1 billion, and the value of shipments and receipts was $524.5 billion.

In addition to the ASM, the Census Bureau releases a broad range of information relating to American manufacturing from the Economic Census, which provides additional detail on the number of manufacturing establishments, employment, payroll, receipts, value of shipments, expenses, assets and a host of other topics on 364 manufacturing industries.

Census Bureau statistics on the manufacturing sector help manufacturers learn about their industries and communities and grow their businesses. You can check out the Census Bureau’s monthly manufacturing indicators – and a host of other measures of economic activity – by downloading our America’s Economy app to your mobile device.

Census Bureau Director Statement on IG Investigative Report

CENSUS Directors Blog - Thu, 09/17/2015 - 16:35

The employee misconduct detailed in the recent Department of Commerce Inspector General’s (IG) report is inexcusable and will not be tolerated. Any employees who allegedly falsified timesheets and betrayed the trust of the American public will be held personally accountable to the fullest extent of the law, including possible termination. Those employees implicated in the investigation and who have access to sensitive information and systems are being placed immediately on administrative leave pending further action. We will pursue legal action for reimbursement of money stolen from taxpayers for hours not worked.

As detailed in the report findings, the Census Bureau cooperated fully with the IG throughout the investigation and took prompt action as information about the misconduct surfaced.

The Census Bureau has already implemented or begun to implement all of the OIG’s recommendations, including:

  • Implementing more rigorous timekeeping and telework procedures throughout the agency.
  • Requiring mandatory training on our time and attendance (WebTA) system.
  • Engaging an outside auditor to conduct an agency wide review of time and attendance practices.
  • Initiating new quality control procedures.
  • Reviewing the sufficiency of previously completed background checks.
  • Replacing the office’s management structure.

Census has also retained an additional independent auditor to review the contracts handled by the office.

The unacceptable behavior alleged in the IG’s report does not reflect the work ethic and values held by the vast majority of Census Bureau employees, who are dedicated and professional public servants. We are confident that the findings in the IG report will ultimately make the Census Bureau a stronger institution and enhance our mission as the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people, places and economy.

New American Community Survey Data Released Today

CENSUS Directors Blog - Thu, 09/17/2015 - 15:48

Written by: John H. Thompson

Today the U.S. Census Bureau released a new set of annual data from the American Community Survey (ACS). The data give us unique insight into the year-to-year changes taking place in our communities across the nation. Beyond the topics highlighted in today’s news release – health insurance coverage, income and poverty levels – the ACS also produces statistics on dozens of other economic, social, housing and demographic topics.

To make informed decisions, policy makers, businesses and citizens need reliable and accessible data about the changing needs of their communities. As the largest continuous household survey in the United States, the ACS is uniquely able to provide the depth and range of data needed by both the public and private sectors.

The survey covers every geographic area in the U.S., making it the only uniform measure that every county nationwide can use. It has an unparalleled breadth, and is the only available source of data for many of the issues that it covers. It is from a trusted, unbiased source, and it levels the playing field by providing all of its data to the public free of charge.

Federal programs use ACS data to disburse over $400 billion a year to tribal, state and local areas. Business and community leaders in turn use ACS data to analyze how the needs of their neighborhoods are evolving, and how to use their resources to meet those needs. For example:

  • The Greater Houston Partnership – a regional economic development organization – uses ACS data to answer companies’ questions about issues like commuting times and the availability of science and engineering workers.
  • Following Super Storm Sandy in 2012, emergency responders in New Jersey used demographic data from the ACS to estimate the volume of traffic in affected areas.
  • When combined with economic and consumer spending data, ACS data can help entrepreneurs identify potential customers and desirable geographic areas to start a business. The Census Bureau recently released Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition to give small business entrepreneurs easier access to that data.
  • Officials from Oklahoma County, Okla., and the United Way use ACS data on poverty, homeownership, and the prevalence of disabilities to identify ways to make their county more senior-friendly.

These are just a few of the many ways that ACS data are tailored to help guide myriad specific decisions across the country. The ACS makes our governments smarter, our businesses more competitive and our citizens more informed. The Census Bureau is proud to provide the most timely, comprehensive, and statistically precise data source for their decision making processes.

To access today’s release of data from the American Community Survey, check out the press release with the findings. You can also check out the data on income, poverty and health insurance coverage from the Current Population Survey that the Census Bureau released this week.

Expanding Small Business Owners’ Access to Our Data with Census Business Builder

CENSUS Directors Blog - Wed, 09/09/2015 - 15:02

Written by: John H. Thompson

The U.S. Census Bureau is the premiere source of data about America’s economy and businesses, and we’re committed to making our data more accessible than ever before. I’m pleased to introduce our latest tool in that effort: Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition.

Every day, businesses large and small use Census Bureau data to make important decisions. Large companies have sophisticated research staff to do this work for them, but small business owners are often left to their own devices. We’ve talked to many entrepreneurs across the country, and a common request is for more Census Bureau data in an easier-to-use format. We listened, and in response, we developed Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition to provide them with easier access to more data.

Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition combines economic and demographic data in meaningful ways that are useful to the small business owner. Uniquely, Census Business Builder also uses third party data on consumer spending. While not produced by Census, we believe that the addition of this data will help deliver the information that’s most useful for small business owners’ needs. The result is an innovative data tool that will help small business entrepreneurs determine the best type and location for their small business.

DirCBB1

To start, select your business type from a list of over 40 categories – such as a restaurant, construction company or beauty salon – and where you’re considering setting up shop.

Once you input this information, you see a map view of your selected location (county, city, town or ZIP code), along with relevant demographic, economic and housing characteristics for that area’s residents. You can pull up features of other businesses like yours – such as number of establishments or similar businesses, average payroll and consumer spending. You can also add filters in order to see cities, counties and neighborhoods with their potential customers’ desired income, education, poverty and employment characteristics.

DirCBB2

The combination of economic and demographic data allows small business owners to make an informed decision about what type of business to open and where to locate it. Once you’ve gathered all of the information you want, Census Business Builder generates a detailed report on the characteristics of your desired geography, its residents and businesses. This critical information can be incorporated into a business plan, a business loan application or shared with others.

Census Business Builder increases the availability and usefulness of the statistics the Census Bureau collects, and it’s a valuable tool for small business owners across America. This is the latest in the Census Bureau’s digital transformation effort, along with major upgrades to Census.gov, an expanding open API, mobile apps and other interactive data tools.

We hope you visit Census Business Builder at www.census.gov/data/data-tools/cbb.html and give us your thoughts via the feedback button. Ideas for improvements to future versions of the tool will come from you, the user.

New Web Features Highlight the U.S. Census Bureau’s International Data

CENSUS Directors Blog - Thu, 09/03/2015 - 10:52

Written by: John H. Thompson

The U.S. and World Population Clock is one of the most popular features on Census.gov. More than 2.4 million users a year access it to find national and world population estimates, as well as statistics on states and regions, age, sex and population density.

Today, I’m excited to showcase the addition of several new features to the World Population Clock. For the first time, basic population facts and visualizations are available for 228 countries and areas around the world, just as they are for U.S. states.

In addition, World Population Clock users can now get Census Bureau data on international trade in goods by country. It’s amazing to see the range and value of goods that states export to countries around the world – and it’s easy to download, share and embed the data in social media.

PopClock

If the new World Population Clock whets your interest in the Census Bureau’s international data, you may want to check out another recently added web feature – the International Map Viewer. This new tool shows four commonly requested demographic measures for foreign countries – total population, growth rate percent, life expectancy at birth and infant mortality rate – by clicking on a world map. It’s a great introduction to international demographic statistics from the Census Bureau, and we’ll continue to add measures to it.

I’m enthusiastic about these new features’ fusion of multiple data sources, both from within the Census Bureau (population, demographic and international trade data) and across the federal government (the maps that accompany the statistics). Many data sources have been combined to form a simple user experience. American travelers, students, researchers and businesses can now use the World Population Clock and International Map Viewer to get accurate, high-level information about countries’ populations and trade with the U.S.

This is just our latest effort to expand access to Census Bureau data through new tools and technologies. It’s part of our goal to expose our audience to new data sets and, hopefully, increase statistical literacy. These updates are part of the major upgrades we’re making to Census.gov so that our almost 50 million annual visitors can more easily find the information they want.

Try out the new World Population Clock and International Map Viewer features and tell us what you think at cnmp.web.comments@census.gov. If you like them, check out our mobile apps and other interactive data tools.

A Timely Portrait of America’s Business Owners from the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs

CENSUS Directors Blog - Tue, 09/01/2015 - 10:51

Written by: John H. Thompson

I’m pleased to announce the beginning of data collection for the inaugural Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs. This new survey will be a supplement to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, which is conducted every five years as part of the Economic Census. It represents an exciting public-private partnership between the Census Bureau, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Minority Business Development Agency.

The Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs is one way that we are responding to Census Bureau data users’ requests for more timely data. This isn’t the first time we’ve expanded our data collection efforts in order to produce more timely statistics; for instance, the demographic data from the annual American Community Survey used to be collected as part of the long-form census every ten years. Similarly, the new Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs will provide an updated socio-economic portrait of America’s business owners in the years between the Survey of Business Owners.

The Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs will provide estimates on firms, receipts, payroll and employment by business owners’ gender, ethnicity, race and veteran status. Results will be available for the U.S., individual states and top 50 metro areas. The survey will also produce annual data on the characteristics of businesses and business owners by demographic category.

Additionally, we are using a rotating module design, which will let us capture information on different relevant business components for each survey year. In the first survey cycle, we will ask about business innovation and research and development activity. We’re working closely with our Advisory Committees to ensure that that we get the most relevant and timely data from business owners each year. As with all of our surveys, we go to great lengths to protect the data we collect; the information we gather from business owners is confidential and never personally identifiable.

Data from the 2014 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs are tentatively scheduled for release in summer 2016. In the meantime, if you’re interested in the demographic makeup of America’s business owners, check out the release of the preliminary 2012 Survey of Business owners statistics. More detailed statistics will be available with the data’s final release in December.

Measuring Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage

CENSUS Directors Blog - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 14:08

Written by: John H. Thompson

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau hosted a webcast on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage statistics. One of the key discussion topics was the implementation of methodological changes to the 2014 Current Population Survey. In conjunction with the event, the Census Bureau released expanded information from last year’s survey; in two weeks, we will release the results from this year’s survey, the second year of data collection with the improved methodology.

The Current Population Survey is the primary source of labor force statistics for the U.S. population. Every spring, the survey asks respondents about their income and health insurance in the prior calendar year. As part of the Census Bureau’s commitment to continuous improvement in measuring changes in our society, we’ve been actively investigating new methodologies for several years – including more than a decade of research on the health insurance coverage questions, and through content tests for both income and health insurance coverage questions.

In 2014, we began asking the survey questions about income and health insurance coverage in a manner that is easier for the respondents to answer. Over the course of the past year, we continued our evaluation of the redesign, and sought out experts to review and provide feedback on our efforts.

Making changes to the Current Population Survey is not something we do lightly, because it can result in difficulties with year-to-year comparisons of the data. However, we needed to implement the changes in 2014 in order to establish a good baseline for health insurance coverage estimates before certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

With the idea of maintaining a consistent time series in mind, we introduced the redesigned income questions using a probability split panel design. Of the 98,000 households selected to participate in the 2014 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, approximately 68,000 addresses received the traditional set of income questions, and the remaining 30,000 addresses received the redesigned income questions.

The split design functions like a bridge for year-to-year comparisons of the data. Last year, we used the traditional income questions to look at changes between 2012 and 2013. This year, we will use the redesigned income questions to measure changes between 2013 and 2014.

For the health insurance section of the questionnaire, a split panel design wasn’t necessary for year-to-year comparisons because data from the American Community Survey provided a consistent time series starting from 2008. We administered the redesigned health insurance questions to all households last year. As a result, we increased precision in the measurement of changes in health insurance coverage between 2013 and 2014 – before and after some of the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act were implemented. This year we will publish our first statistics showing the law’s effect.

For more information about the redesigned questions in the Current Population Survey, check out the recording of the webcast. You can also look to our Random Samplings blog over the next two weeks for more information about methodology changes. Check back with us on September 16 for the release of 2014 income, poverty and health insurance estimates.

U.S. Census Bureau Data Shows Gulf Coast’s Recovery from Hurricane Katrina

CENSUS Directors Blog - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 15:33

Written by: John H. Thompson

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. Gulf Coast, forever altering the lives of many of its residents. As we pause to reflect on the impact of the storm, we can see a story of recovery told through Census Bureau statistics on population, housing and businesses.

Since 2005, communities in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida continue to rebuild, undergoing significant changes as new homes, schools and businesses replace those damaged or lost to the storm. Census Bureau population estimates show that last year New Orleans returned to the nation’s list of 50 most populous cities for the first time since the storm. In the year after Katrina, its population decreased by more than half to 230,172. While it has not returned to its pre-Katrina level of 494,294, the city’s most recent population totaled 384,320 residents.

While the population continues to rebound in New Orleans, so too do businesses. Some types of businesses have even surpassed pre-Katrina levels, especially hotels, gas stations and restaurants.

In Mississippi, which saw significant damage in many coastal towns, the story is also one of recovery. In fact, the three coastline counties – Hancock, Harrison and Jackson – now have more residents than they did in 2005, with a combined population of 386,144. Looking at towns such as Bay Saint Louis and Pass Christian, we see that their populations have also increased.

Not only can Census Bureau statistics tell us about the recovery from events like Hurricane Katrina, but they can also provide important information about communities for emergency preparedness. Our population estimates help determine the number of people affected by disasters. Our demographic and economic information – like that from the American Community Survey –  assists first responders in identifying the size of populations that may be vulnerable or need extra assistance, such as those with a disability or who speak a language other than English at home. Census Bureau surveys also provide critically important statistics on topics like access to transportation, the number of residents who are elderly or disabled, and how people commute each day.

I’m pleased that the Census Bureau is able to contribute to recovery efforts by providing data on the affected people and businesses to policymakers and planners. These statistics inform decisions that will help Gulf Coast communities rebuild and plan for the future. We look forward to measuring your growth for years to come.

For more information about the effects of Hurricane Katrina on Louisiana, Mississippi and other affected areas, see this special edition of our Profile America Facts for Features.

The 2015 National Content Test Is Now Underway

CENSUS Directors Blog - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 13:19

Written by: John H. Thompson

This month, 1.2 million households began receiving the questionnaire for the 2015 National Content Test. For those who receive the test, your participation in this important milestone on the road to the 2020 Census will help us determine the best questions for you to respond to in the next census. September 1 marks Census Day for the test.

The National Content Test has two main objectives. First, we want to evaluate and compare different versions of questions to ask in the 2020 Census, such as those about race and origin, relationships, and the best questions for determining where people should be counted as of Census Day.

Second, during the National Content Test, the U.S. Census Bureau will try different strategies for encouraging households to respond to the census on their own. We will test nine different approaches to encourage households to respond via the Internet – the least costly and most efficient response option.

The Census Bureau has sent National Content Test questionnaires to a statistically representative sample of households in the United States and Puerto Rico. For each household, we ask how many people live in the house, and each person’s name, sex, age, relationship, and race and ethnic origin. We ask whether the housing unit is owned or rented. Finally, we ask for the respondent’s telephone number and email address. Because studying the effectiveness of different content is part of the test, different households will receive different versions of question wording.

If you receive a form, please perform your civic duty and complete it. You will help inform our decisions as we design the 2020 Census. Your participation will also help us to identify additional topics for 2020 Census testing later this decade. As always, the information we collect is subject to strict privacy and confidentiality laws, and we go to great lengths to protect your data. The National Content Test is part of our ongoing testing activities to research innovative methods for reducing the cost of the 2020 Census, while still maintaining a high-quality census. It will help us develop a census that is cost-effective, improves coverage, and reduces operational risk.

The 2015 National Content Test is scheduled to run through November 2015. You can learn more by visiting our FAQ page.

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